The overall economic impact of the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center is pegged at more than $616 million since the renovated hotel and new conference facility opened in 1995, according to a report by the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission.
The regional commission’s impact study found $616 million in total impacts from the hotel and conference center since reopening April 3, 1995. The economic impact of the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center in 2014 alone was $40 million.
Additionally, the hotel and conference center has had a clear impact on local taxes generating more than $36 million in taxes from its operations since reopening.
The employment impact of the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center is significant. The hotel and conference center has employed 250 to 300 people each year over the past 20 years, and the facility has also supported an additional 77 jobs in the economy through indirect and induced impacts.
Known to some as The Grand Old Lady, the Hotel Roanoke’s status as a community icon dates back more than a century. Today, it anchors a revitalized downtown Roanoke and doubles as a community gathering place.
“Our city simply wouldn’t be the same – not nearly as vital or exciting – if not for the Hotel Roanoke and the Conference Center. It was the economic shot in the arm we needed to further stimulate development in the market area,” said Mayor David Bowers.
“Just as the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center has provided a significant economic impact in the city and the region, the investment in the downtown over the last twenty years has been significant as well. We believe that the investments in downtown have resulted in an economic impact of over $750 million since the HRCC opened their doors in 1995,” said Wayne Strickland, executive director of Roanoke Valley – Alleghany Regional Commission.
The Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center report also notes that the number of restaurants in downtown Roanoke increased from 56 in 1992 to 72 in 2014, which resulted in almost a doubling of restaurant employment during the same period (464 employees in 1992 to 900 in 2014).
“While there were certainly other factors that contributed to the increase in dining options, we can’t discount the impact of the hotel and conference center on this phenomenon,” said Strickland.
Looking back more than a quarter century, the project was not without critics when Norfolk Southern Corp. donated the hotel to Virginia Tech and the university announced plans to create a conference hotel.
“Naysayers abounded. It seems everyone was skeptical, from consultants to reporters to the average citizen,” said Ray Smoot, who led Virginia Tech’s efforts in concert with Bob Herbert, then Roanoke’s city manager.
The hotel renovation and accompanying conference center was the result of a complex partnership between the city of Roanoke and the Virginia Tech Foundation. It required a complex funding scenario, multiple banks, changes in state legislation, and a last minute community fund raising campaign.
“From my perspective, this project is an exceptional example of municipal government recognizing and acting upon a unique economic development opportunity,” added Smoot. “Most importantly, visionary community and civic leaders – people like Noel Taylor, Horace Fralin, Jim McComas, Minnis Ridenour, David Goode, and Tom Robertson – stepped forward and brought the community together.”
“I can understand why people questioned university ownership. They did not understand the conferencing part – outreach and education is clearly within our land-grant university mission. Yet, looking through the lens of a newcomer, I see the connection between the facilities and our role as a university bringing educational opportunities to all sectors of our society,” said Virginia Tech President Timothy D. Sands.
“One of the smartest decisions the city ever made was to agree to partner with Virginia Tech to breathe new life into this historic landmark while, at the same time, creating a new venue to draw conferences and events from across the Commonwealth to our city,” said Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. “This venture has more than proven its value in boosting the economic success of our downtown and the Roanoke area as a whole, and in building a stronger working relationship with Virginia Tech.”
The full economic impact report, commissioned by the Hotel Roanoke Conference Center Commission, can be viewed online at hotel and conference center website.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the reopening, other community leaders volunteered impressions:
“You can’t overlook the non-financial impact of Hotel Roanoke. It’s visually stunning as part of the Roanoke skyline. It’s symbolic of our history. And for those who pass through its doors, it makes a lasting and positive impression that reflects on our community. Any city would love to have a facility like Hotel Roanoke because it is an asset to the region in so many ways,” said Beth Doughty, executive director, Roanoke Regional Partnership.
“Rescuing the Hotel Roanoke seemed impossible in the late 1980s. With a supportive city council and a visionary Virginia Tech, the development team almost got it done. But in the end, it took the whole Roanoke Valley including the support of the businesses, citizens, and school children to raise funds that enabled the project to cross the finish line. It is a special delight to have been part of a true community project… producing income for the city and Virginia Tech, and jobs the business and citizens of our community. The Hotel Roanoke is in the truest sense… a community development,” said Bob Herbert, Roanoke’s former city manager.
“Roanoke wouldn’t be Roanoke without that Tudor style “grand old lady,” The Hotel Roanoke, on the hill overlooking downtown. It is one of the unique and iconic images of “The Star City,” as is the Mill Mountain Star, St. Andrews gothic style church and the contemporary looking Taubman Art Museum. For Roanokers, we also have fond, personal memories of dining and meeting in The Hotel, including wonderful meals at The Regency Room, wedding receptions, holiday events and political or civic conventions. It is a mighty fine part of our life, and Roanokers treasure their historic Hotel Roanoke. The reopening of the hotel in 1995 has led to a great 20 year partnership of success and progress for Virginia Tech and the City of Roanoke,” said Roanoke Mayor Bowers.
“We can trace many civic, economic development, or research projects to that clarion call from the late Mayor Noel Taylor 30 years ago when he called for increased cooperation between Virginia Tech and Roanoke. In addition to the hotel conference center complex, projects like the higher education center, the new medical school and research center, the data fiber initiative, and even the Smart Road in Blacksburg owe their existence, in part, to the partnership first envisioned by Mayor Taylor,” said Smoot.